Pre-Editing Checklist

Or, what you should do before you contact an editor.

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So, What Should You Have Done Before You Contact an Editor?

If you’ve read other pages on this site, you should have a very good idea of what you should have completed before you contact an editor for line editing, copyediting, or proofreading. Adapted from my friend Dedrie Marie, here’s a quick summary of where you should be at:

Have you taken time away from your manuscript?

After you typed THE END, did you take a few days or a week (or more!) away from your work? Did you repeat the process after rewriting based on your beta analyses? Time gives you a perspective on your work that nothing else will!

Have you self-edited your manuscript at least twice?

You need to self-edit your manuscript at least twice, once after you type THE END and again after you get feedback from your beta team. If you’ve had your manuscript professionally evaluated, you should have another round of self-editing.

Have you run your manuscript through an automated editing program?

You should do this after you type THE END as well as after every major round of self-editing. (Every time you touch the manuscript, the potential exists to introduce new errors). Free and paid-for solutions exist: Grammarly, Pro Writing Aid, the Hemingway App. I highly recommend Grammarly; I use the premium version myself. The free version will catch a lot of mechanical errors. What’s most cool is that you can get a Word add-in so you can use it write in your document! I also use Pro Writing Aid because I adore its over 20 reports that drill down into different types of writing issues. They have a free web-based version as well as paid levels.

I ask all my authors to run the manuscript through at least one of these automated programs. Let the software catch your basic mistakes, and let me work on the things the machines will never catch.

Writing Improvement Software



Have you used Word (or an equivalent) to help improve your prose?

Use Word’s Find feature to point out weaknesses in your writing that you can fix:

  • Swap out double spaces anywhere for single spaces using Find and Replace.
  • Root out potential filler words; remove or recast sentence: as, actually, just, that, really, very, so, rather, quite like
  • Clean up dialogue tags. Do you need them at all? If you are expressing how the character is acting at the time, probably not. If you want to use one … do you really need more than “said”? Remember, too, that you can’t snarl, smirk, or laugh a line of dialogue.
  • Remove crutch words. While favorites are lovely, you might want to mix it up. Want an impartial view of your favorite words? Use Textalyser, TextFixer.com, and WriteWords to get find out your favorites.

Have you consulted a style guide?

Your editor will most likely use The Chicago Manual of Style if she or he is based in the United States. Consider getting your own subscription to CMoS online. You’ll be amazed at what you can learn!

Have you had at least one round of beta reading with multiple readers?

This is essential. A good team of beta readers can make the difference between a book other readers love and a book other readers dislike (and review poorly!) If you make substantial edits after the first round of beta reading, consider having another round to see what your betas think of your revisions. Don’t skimp on this step!

Have you self-edited your manuscript at least twice, run it through editing programs, and used a beta team?

Yes … I am repeating myself, but I cannot stress the importance of these steps enough.

After all of the above, do you think your book is the best you can make it?

If not, consider manuscript evaluation to see if anything else needs to be done at a structural or character level. If you feel like you’ve done your best with your manuscript, choose your level of editing and commit to it!

Is Your Book Ready to Be Edited?

Pre-Editing Checklist Form

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